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    North America Travel

    For Purple Mountains Majesty

    Montana’s Big Sky

    Location: Montana

    It’s a vast state, but one of my favorites. I’d like to spend more time here, and every time I visit I want to see more.

    Montana. Often called the Big Sky Country or the Treasure State both nicknames reflect the vastness and beauty of the United States’ 41st state. Montana joined a wide group of new states in 1889, including my home state of Washington which became the 42nd state three days after Montana.

    Glacier National Parki
    Lake McDonald Lodge

    I’ve mentioned in my blogs before that I wish visitors to the USA would come to places like Montana, instead of Las Vegas or Orlando because in my opinion this is America. America the beautiful. Amber waves of grain. Purple mountains majesty. I love it here. And admittedly there are things about the USA I am not proud of, but the rugged beauty of places like Montana remind me how grateful I am to be an American.

    Glacier National Park
    Deadwood Falls

    Our recent trip was a short one, but an inspiring one. We drove from Spokane Washington on Interstate 90 to Bigfork. The drive takes about four hours from Spokane. You leave Interstate 90 at Saint Regis and head north on 93 to Bigfork. The drive is spectacular and the only way to visit Montana properly is with a car. The last hour of the drive takes you north with Flathead lake on your right. Beautiful views of this enormous lake and the mountains and forests beyond.

    We have friends we were visiting in Bigfork and we wanted to spend a day in Glacier National Park, one of our favorites of the National Parks in the USA. The last time we visited Glacier we stayed three days in October. The park was quiet and we enjoyed having it nearly to ourselves. In July however it was very crowded with tourists from all of the USA and many from around the world.

    The crowds kept us from finding parking at the first two places we wanted to hike, so we continued on to two other hikes, which we enjoyed. The park is big, but there is really only one road “The Going to the Sun Road” so at peak season it can be busy. There is talk of making Going to the Sun a shuttle road (like they do in Zion). During peak season you would leave your vehicle and take a shuttle.

    Flathead Lake Montana
    Historic Ice House, Somers

    There are shuttles available as well as the historic Red Bus Tours. We have not done this but it looks really fun and you get a guide who narrates history, geography and wildlife topics. Worth the money.

    We really enjoyed our full day at Glacier with visits to Lake McDonald Lodge, Logan Pass, Deadwood Falls and Two Medicine.

    Glacier National Park Montana
    Young grizzly, Glacier National Park

    We spent another day in Bigfork, which has grown a lot and offers a variety of restaurants, shops and galleries in what used to be a sleepy cowboy town. Very walkable and beautiful. We took a hike along the Swan River Nature Trail just up the hill from the old town and enjoyed the views from there.

    We also drove to Lakeside on Flathead Lake, where families were swimming and sunning themselves in a lovely public park. The resort town offers many hotels and restaurants. We made a stop in Somers and visited the historic train station and ice house and learned some history of the region.

    Bigfork Montana
    The American, Bigfork Montana

    I’d like to go back next summer and head south and stop in Missoula, Butte and Bozeman…maybe go as far as Yellowstone. It’s a large state, worth the time it takes to see it, worth it whether you are from Montana or Morocco, Washington or Wales.

    Montana Wildlife
    Big Horn Ram, Glacier National Park

    Big Sky Country. Purple Mountains Majesty. Montana.

    Glacier National Park

    Where to stay?

    We recommend The American right in downtown Bigfork. Eight miles south try Sterling Ranch Airbnb.

    Where to eat?

    We recommend Rileys Pub and Flathead Lake Brewery. Outside of Bigfork in Esex we enjoyed dinner at The Isaac Walton Inn.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    This is my second Ken Follett novel. My first was Pillars of the Earth, one of the most brilliant books I have ever read.

    Fall of Giants is a great book as well but didn’t have for me the same spellbinding story and imagery Follett created in Pillars of the Earth.

    But I still loved it. The story begins in 1911 in a coal mine in Wales, and follows a series of families; Billy Williams and his coal-mining family of Wales; The Earl of Fitzherbert and his family – the wealthy land and mining family; the von Ulrichs – Austrian cousins of the Fitzherberts; American Gus Dewar; and Russian brothers Grigori and Lev Peshkov.

    These main families and characters are used to build an intriguing story of the years leading up to World War I and the entire war time for these characters. Additionally the novel covers in detail themes of working class people in the coal mines and poverty in Russia as that country finds itself falling headlong into a revolution.

    The brilliantly developed characters provide the story a platform to focus on important themes of the era including class structure and wealth disparity; women’s rights and the suffrage movement; aristocratic empowerment leading to the uprising of the lower classes; and the many poor decisions made by European leaders that made WWI so long and deadly – ultimately bringing Germany to its economic knees leading to the rise of Hitler.

    Follett is one of our generations most talented story-tellers and I am a big fan.

    Five stars for Fall of Giants. Read last week’s review of Stay and Fight.

    Adventure Travel  --  Inspire

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Add These to Your Bucket List

    Location: Around the World

    It’s blog bonus day! Enjoy this one once again.

    We love Paris like everyone else.  But really that’s the problem.  EVERYONE loves Paris (and London and Rome) and so you find lots of crowds and high cost.  In our travels around the world we have really tried to find new places that few tourists go.  Often these destinations end up being our most favorite.  And the more we travel the more we want to encourage everyone to consider stepping out of their travel comfort zone, and exploring the unknown – the favorite destinations no one goes.   Finding your way to the lesser traveled destinations creates less impact on the planet while bringing greater cultural awareness to the traveler.  We ask you to consider these options:

    Bulgaria

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Bulgaria

    Instead of Croatia consider visiting  Bulgaria, one of our favorite countries we have ever been to.  Bulgaria has so much to offer, and yet we did not meet a single American during the entire month we were there.  We did meet lots of Russians, Germans and some Brits.  Bulgaria has a remarkable coastline along the gorgeous Black Sea as well as great mountains for hiking.  The food is amazing, the wine is cheap and the 5000 year history is astounding.  And the people are so amazing, welcoming and proud. They have endured a great deal in their history, and they have a “come what may” attitude that is infectious. Go visit Bulgaria.

    Slovenia

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Slovenia

    Instead of Italy go to fascinating Slovenia. From Trieste, Italy it’s just a hop across the border to Slovenia, the tiny country once part of Yugoslavia.  We have been to Slovenia twice and I suspect we will be there again.  Slovenia has a tiny coastline on the Adriatic, and our favorite town of Piran is a perfect place to visit and get some local flavor.  But don’t stop there, Slovenia has some of the most beautiful mountain towns and lakes.  Much of Slovenia is still agrarian and the people are welcoming and patriotic and friendly.  Oh and the seafood.  So darn delicious. Go visit Slovenia.

    El Salvador

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    El Salvador

    Instead of Mexico go to El Salvador.  We just spent two weeks on the Pacific Coast of tiny El Salvador and we absolutely loved it.  There are some Americans coming here, but mostly 20-year-old surfers. The media has made us believe El Salvador is a dangerous place, and yet it is no more dangerous than Mexico and Americans flock to Mexico.  Come to El Salvador where the water is warm, the people are welcoming, the food is delicious and the history though brutal and bloody – is fascinating.  El Salvador will soon come out the shadow of its violent past, so visit before the secret gets out.  Go visit El Salvador.

    Poland

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Poland

    Instead of Germany go to Poland.  Poland is just beginning to step out of the shadow and become a tourist destination.  And it should.  We fell hard for Poland spending three weeks there last fall.  Poland has some of the most astonishing history anywhere in Europe.  The food is fantastic.  The people are warm and happy to meet you.  The historic villages are well-preserved and beautiful.  And it is cheap and easy to get to.  We loved Krakow as well as all the other places we visited and using the train in Poland was a great way to travel.  You really should visit Poland now.

    Bangladesh

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Bangladesh

    Instead of India go to Bangladesh.  I loved our time in India too, but if you want to push yourself and visit somewhere no tourists go, visit the remarkable, tiny country of Bangladesh.  Our short visit to Bangladesh provided us some of the most rewarding moments we have ever had in our travels. It’s difficult to visit Bangladesh without a guide, and we were lucky to find Deshguri, one of the few tour operators in the country.  Through Deshguri we able to meet so many Bangladeshi people, who greeted us with more kindness than anywhere we have ever been in the world.  We certainly stood out in both crowded Dakar as well as the beautiful villages and countryside, since almost no Western tourists come here.  We learned so much during our time in Bangladesh, and left our heart with its beautiful people. A remarkable experience that everyone should have. Visit Bangladesh soon.

    Sri Lanka

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Sri Lanka

    Instead of Thailand go to Sri Lanka. Thailand is overrun with tourists anymore.  So if you are looking for beautiful beaches, mountains and more, visit Sri Lanka instead.  The young backpacking set has found Sri Lanka, but few American visitors of the Fab Fifties era are traveling here.  Why not?  It is amazing.  We spent three of our most favorite weeks in Sri Lanka, one of the friendliest countries we have ever visited.  The Civil War is over and Sri Lanka is safe and inexpensive.  The food is the da bomb. Hiking and history is around every corner and the beaches are incredible.  We saw elephants and leopards, monkeys and snakes.  Oh my.  It’s Sri Lanka for me.

    Namibia

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Namibia

    Instead of South Africa go to Namibia.  Our ten-day tour in Namibia with Wild Wind Safaris will go down in our travels as one of the most remarkable places.  This country that nobody has heard of is one of the most beautiful in the world.  We had an amazing private guide during our time there, but you can also see the country easily with your own 4×4 vehicle (careful though, there is a high traffic fatality rate in Namibia). Namibia has a gorgeous Atlantic coastline, dry mountainous region that is like a moonscape, and multiple fascinating cultures such as the Himba, Damara and Herero people.  And to top it off Etosha National Park – single-handedly the best wildlife viewing we have ever encountered.  I absolutely fell in love with Namibia.  If you have ever considered a safari in Kenya, Tanzania or South Africa take a moment and research Namibia.  You will be so glad you did.  Go see Namibia now.

    Seychelles

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Seychelles

    Instead of the Maldives go to the Seychelles.  First a word about the Maldives.  We loved our time there, and luckily we found a very inexpensive place to stay.  But in general the Maldives are expensive and there is no alcohol! So consider the Seychelles instead.  A beautiful set of small islands out in the middle of nowhere off of east Africa.  We spent a month on the tiny island of Praslin and loved every minute of it.  Groceries were expensive and the variety was less than desirable, but the rest of the experience was very positive.  The islanders speak French/Creole mix, and the shy people are friendly and religious.  If you are looking for a place to kick back and relax with the warmest turquoise waters in the world, visit Seychelles now.

    Portugal

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Portugal

    Instead of Spain go to Portugal.  I hesitated about adding Portugal to this list because Portugal does have a thriving tourism industry.  But we met very few Americans while we were there.  Perhaps more Americans go to Spain because Spanish is a language more Americans can handle.  But during our time in Portugal we had very little difficulty with the Portuguese language.  We loved Portugal so much we would consider living there.  The food is incredible, the cities are beautiful and the beaches are fantastic.   It’s a remarkable place with such a variety of geography.  Historically Portugal was once a powerful country of explorers and merchants, colonizers and tyrants but today, this quiet and beautiful country is laid back and relaxed and fun.  Visit Portugal.

    What is next for us?

    We are now into a full-fledged planning phase of our next chapter of the Grand Adventure. We will spend May-September in the USA then depart again.  Without really trying, we have noticed

    Hard to answer questions to a travel nomad

    Portugal

    a trend in the countries we are planning to visit next, a trend towards less touristy.  A trend towards staying longer in one place.  A trend towards trying to make less of an impact and remove ourselves from the fray.

    I think this is what we always intended to happen on this journey, but it just took us a while to get there.  But when we look back on our favorite places we have been so far, it’s always the places with the road less traveled.  It’s always the places with few western tourists.  It’s always the places the cruise ships don’t go.  The authentic and relatively untouched destinations.

    One rare Bangladesh

    Bangladesh

    Our favorite destinations no one goes to.  Fabulous.

    Note – we have committed to the following destinations from September to January; China, Malaysia, Myanmar, Oman, Kenya and Mauritiaus. Not confirmed but in the works for 2020 are;  Zambia, Uganda, Israel, Cyprus, Malta, Albania, Serbia, Macedonia,Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovakia, Belarus, Estonia, Finland and Greenland.

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    At Home

    Finding Family Unexpectedly

    How DNA Brought Me A Brother From Another Mother

    Location: Port Orchard Washington

    Where do I begin? Well perhaps at the beginning – except the details are sparse. Most everyone who knows the facts has died. And my Dad, well, his health is poor and memory is gone.

    So where do I begin? Well here are the details as I know them. I have another brother – unknown to us throughout my life – now here he is.

    Me with my cousin, and siblings old and new

    Dennis has been looking for his family his entire life. Wondering who his father was. Never knowing. Having a poor excuse of a step-father, and after the death of his mother when he was only seven years old, he struggled to make sense of all the loss in his life. Spending his childhood bouncing from family to foster care. Determined not to become the juvenile delinquent everyone in the “system” assumed was his fate.

    Until at age 63, DNA came knocking. Dennis has been on Ancestry for several years. I have been on Ancestry for several years, but I had never taken the DNA test. I bought a test for my Dad years ago, but he never took it, and the test was misplaced when we moved my Dad out of his big house.

    Me and Dennis

    But Dennis took the test, and my cousin took the test and BAM! First cousins found each other…meaning Dennis was much closer to finding his father…meaning it could only be my uncle (who has passed) or my own father.

    Wow. This information all came together last spring and my cousin, brother, sister and I welcomed Dennis, whether he was cousin or brother, and met him for dinner one evening in June.

    And he looked just like my Dad. Mind blown.

    After our meeting, I felt a huge obligation to Dennis to get the answer, and so I did a DNA test and I got my Dad to do one. Three weeks later, the results showed 100% Dennis is my half sibling, my father’s child.

    Dennis is happy to know. He was emotional and excited and relieved. Our family is happy for him. Happy to welcome him. Wishing my Dad wasn’t so far gone into Alzeheimers that we could get more answers. But we are all, including Dennis, in agreement my Dad should not be told who Dennis is due to Dad’s precarious health. For now anyway.

    But Dennis has now met my Dad (our Dad). And we will make it possible for Dennis to meet him again, and again. And we will welcome Dennis into our crazy wired family, and probably scare him off with all the craziness we seem to produce – Dennis hasn’t had a family like this. Between my sister, brother and I there are a total of 9 children with 5 spouses and 10 grand children.

    Our belief right now is that my Dad never knew Dennis was out there. We firmly believe he would never have shirked that responsibility – it’s not the kind of man he was. My father would have been 22 years old when Dennis was conceived in 1955…he married my mother in 1957 and my sister was born in 1958…I came along two years later, my brother a year after that.

    And so here we are. So many questions that may never be resolved, but the biggest question of all for Dennis has been answered. I am glad.

    The development of DNA is an amazing thing, providing forensics and families an opportunity to learn things that generations in the past could not even have dreamed of. It must be used responsibly, and not all DNA results and findings turn out positive for families…some people are hurt , embarrassed, angry and unable to cope with information DNA might bring to light. Our family however, views it as a fascinating development and we all are pleased with the unexpected news.

    You may have read my book review Inheritance, a book I read shortly before this all happened to my family. In the book a women learns her biological father was a sperm donor – not the man she grew up believing was her Dad. Her search for the sperm donor created lots of questions; what are his rights as an anonymous donor; what are her rights to know who her biological father is; what about genetic diseases; what about unknown siblings and the potential of inter-genetic marriages; should there be more control over DNA and results?

    Life was different in the 1950’s and women who got pregnant so often were shamed and hidden. But in the 1950’s and long before, men often carried no responsibility and or knowledge of pregnancies they may have had a hand in – creating many little humans who never knew the truth.

    But today, with the continuing advancement of DNA, there are no longer any secrets…lots of men may be wondering…lots of families may be affected. It’s only going to grow.

    For me, and this situation in my own family I just feel we must embrace it and move forward. What more can we do? We can’t deny or walk away and why would we? We have found a buried treasure, something we didn’t know was lost. My siblings who I have known all my life and my new sibling who we just met, will now go forward and tread lightly and see what happens next. I’m just sorry it took so long.

    Note I am aware of at least ten people I know who have had similar developments in their families. If you are so inclined, and have a story of your own, feel free to share in the comments below.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Stay and Fight by Madeline Ffitch

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I listened to this book on Audible. It’s the perfect kind of story for Audible. Colorful and unusual characters were brought to life in this independent, raucous, funny and sad story. A powerful story of hard-scrabble people living off the hard-scrabble land in Appalachia Ohio.

    Helen – young and naive, arrives with her boyfriend following his pie-in-the-sky plans to live off the grid despite the fact that neither he or Helen have any idea what they are doing. He abandons her soon after their arrival.

    Rudy – anti-government, loud and opinionated, Rudy takes Helen on in his lumber and nursery business.

    Karen and Lily – lesbians living on the Women’s Land Trust, they are expecting a child, which means they must leave the Land Trust and find another place to live. Karen is rough and hardworking wants to provide for Lily and the baby while Lily wants a happy and stable home to raise her impending babe.

    Perley – the baby Lily births grows up in a house of women; Mama L (Lily), Mama K (Karen) and “the mean Aunt” Helen. Perley’s imagination and world view as a toddler and a child is rich and wonderful and keeps the disjointed people together – the only family he has ever known.

    But then everything falls apart when Perley wants to go to school, and the makeshift family is exposed to the “system” which believes they are not fit to raise Perley.

    This story is beautifully heartbreaking and will make you stop in your tracks to consider your belief of the true meaning of family, the “well-meaning” of the American social services system, and the stereotype image of the backwoods Applachian people.

    I loved this debut novel by Madeline Ffitch.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for Stay and Fight. Read last week’s review of The Alice Network.

    Food & Drink  --  Inspire

    My Favorite Coffee Around the World

    Stop and Smell the Coffee

    Location: Around the World

    Lucky am I that I have tasted coffee all over the world, in fact, in 96 countries. Wow that is a lot of countries and a lot of coffee. I do love coffee and although there has been many countries where the coffee was downright lousy or non-existent, luckily there have been many countries where it was delicious and abundant.

    So I thought today I would share with you my favorite coffee around the world. Some of the worlds best and most delicious. Whatever you call it; java, joe, mud, cuppa, brew, cafe, octane, rocket fuel or juice – here is my favorite coffee around the world.

    Coffee in France
    Espresso in France 2007

    France – I visited France in 2007 and despite the Starbucks phenom in the USA, France was the place I had my first and most memorable cup of real good espresso. And I didn’t have just one. I drank so many cups of espresso during my ten day visit to Paris and northern France. I learned how much I love a deep, dark rich cup and I have loved it ever since.

    Italian coffee
    My husband enjoying coffee in Italy

    Italy – Most people think of espresso as Italian, and certainly they are credited with the invention of the espresso machine. I loved this amazing coffee here as well, and was a bit confused by the social etiquette surrounding your morning coffee. Most baristas were kind and assisted this silly American

    Ethiopian coffee
    Ethiopian woman preparing the coffee

    Ethiopia – My 2008 trip to Ethiopia remains one of the highlights of my travel life, and learning the complicated process the Ethiopia Coffee ceremony encompasses is one of the most interesting things I have ever seen. Ethiopians strongly claim their country as the birthplace of coffee, and they take the ceremony of coffee very seriously. You can’t be in a hurry for your morning cuppa here…but it is very much worth the wait.

    Zanzibar Coffee

    Zanzibar – the beautiful island country of Zanzibar (actually a self-governing island of Tanzania) has many coffee plantations as well as beautiful and interesting spice plantations. On a tour of one of these plantations we learned a lot about the coffee culture of Zanzabar and enjoyed drinking the rich dark brew at Zanzibar Coffee next to our hotel.

    Moroccan Coffee
    Coffee at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca

    Morocco – there are so many things I love about Morocco, including the food, and the coffee is high up on that list of favorite things. We drank it in all parts of the country and it was rich and delicious no matter where we were. Moroccans could be found drinking it morning and night, but for me I had to stick to the morning, or I would have been awake all night long.

    Greek Coffee
    Coffee in Greece

    Greece – Another country that really knows how to do coffee is Greece. Like other European countries coffee often comes with a “biscuit” for dipping, and a cup of beautiful dark coffee in the afternoon was my favorite mid-day treat.

    Breakfast in Qatar

    Qatar – this photo does not do justice to the coffee we had in Qatar. We transited through Qatar and spent only one night, and enjoyed on the morning of our departure what I can say is hands down the best breakfast I have ever eaten…including a pot of delicious brewed dark coffee.

    Vietnam Coffee
    Almost always served in a glass cup in Vietnam

    Vietnam – we spent a month in Vietnam and really grew to love the coffee there. Often served with sweet milk, but you could order it without, the local coffee was almost always served in a clear glass cup without a handle.

    Guatemalan Coffee
    Coffee in Guatemala

    Guatemala – when we returned home after our month in Guatemala we brought with us six pounds of coffee…now one of my favorite coffee around the world. The production of coffee is big in many Central American countries, but of all the countries we visited we liked Guatemalan coffee the best.

    Vietnam Coffee
    A special latte made to look like me in Vietnam

    So there you have it, my favorite coffee around the world. I can’t wait to continue my coffee culture research when we head out for our fourth year of ’round the world travel. Coffee makes me happy!

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    This novel was my first Audible in a long, long time. Since I’m back in the USA and driving a car again for awhile, I decided to join Audible again.

    At first I groaned and thought I wasn’t going to like this book because the reader’s American voice was grating on me…but her other accents; German, French and British were astonishingly on point. So I kept listening. I’m glad I did.

    This remarkable story follows two women – one a spy in the Alice Network during World War I. The second an American socialite trying to find her missing cousin just after World War II.

    Charlie, the young American woman, unwed but pregnant, brainy but frightened. Charlie’s loss of her brother to the war has pushed her to try to find her missing French cousin who has not been heard from in several years. Charlie has a name on a scrap of paper so she flees her domineering mother and heads to London.

    In London Charlie finds Eve Gardner; drunk, rude, foul mouthed and vulgar . Eve wants nothing to do with Charlie or anyone else for that matter. Since the end of the war she has drunk her troubles away.

    But the two eventually begin a journey in search of cousin Rose, accompanied by Eve’s driver Finn. It’s an unlikely threesome, who unravel a thirty year old story and find danger, violence and heartbreak as well as long seething revenge in a heart wrenching plot of war, espionage, torture, loss, family and love.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

    Read last week’s Reading RoundUp of all 52 Books I read this past year.

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